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What we learned about Arizona women’s basketball in Pac-12 home-opening weekend

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 07 Women’s - Utah at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona women’s basketball returned home for matchups against No. 5 Colorado and No. 15 Utah and showed a lot about what type of team they are.

UA split over the weekend, losing by one to No. 5 Colorado and upsetting No. 15 Utah by one.

“I’m proud of them,” Arizona head coach Adia Barnes said. “They proved they have heart. They’re cohesive. They’re together. They have each others’ backs. That they’re resilient and they want to do what I ask and they want to do their best, and that’s all I can ask for.”

Here’s what was learned over the weekend about Arizona women’s basketball.

UA has the grit and heart to compete with top teams despite having only seven to eight players available to play

After losing a tight battle against No. 5 Colorado on Friday night, a young inexperienced team with only eight players available could have folded due to being tired and being deflated but UA was still ready for a battle against No. 15 Utah.

“So, I think that winning one of these and playing top teams so close and knowing we can play with anybody is going to give us momentum going into these next four games on the road,” Barnes said.

During the two games at home everyone had a heavy minute load as UA only had seven available Friday and eight available in Sunday’s contest. Helena Pueyo played all 85 minutes of both contests and no Wildcat played under 15 minutes a game. This was a good first test for the young WIldcats as Pac-12 play is just getting started.

“This is a young team that hasn’t had this adversity and so it was good to see them have a great mentality today and come into the game really wanting to win and showing that,” Barnes said. “And then being down 10 and fighting back and winning. So, I’m more impressed with that because we could have laid down and died but we hit some big shots and some big plays and it wasn’t perfect, but we found a way to get the job done.”

UA needs to box out and rebound better and needs to get back in transition

Arizona is dead last in total rebounds in the Pac-12 (34.9) and was out-rebounded in both games.

Against Colorado, UA was out-rebounded by 20 (41-21) and Colorado had 17 offensive rebounds (17-3). Arizona rebounded better against Utah but still was out-rebounded (41-33) but still gave up 11 offensive rebounds (11-3).

“Overall, I think we did some good things besides the boxing out,” Barnes said. “I thought our rebounding has been pretty rough.”

In the Colorado game, Barnes looked to her five-foot-eight guard to help rebound.

“We struggled on the boards against Colorado and then when I was on the bench I think late third quarter, I remember they had three offensive rebounds in one possession so then Adia put me and was like, ‘You need to rebound if you’re going back in,’” sophomore guard Kailyn Gilbert said. “So, I made that a point of emphasis.”

Gilbert responded against Colorado, grabbing 12 rebounds—including the game-saving offensive rebound which led to her getting two free throws to pull off the upset.

Arizona also needs to get back on made baskets and not allow quick open layups on the other end.

“We have to not have the unnecessary turnovers, not give up those transition buckets that caused us rotation, then we are vulnerable for rebounds, so it’s all correlated,” Barnes said.

Arizona turns to sophomore Kailyn Gilbert when they need a late bucket

At the end of regulation and overtime, Arizona ran isolation plays for Gilbert to try and get her a look at the rim.

Gilbert failed to make the game winner in regulation but when the opportunity came in overtime, Barnes didn’t hesitate to flatten out the defense and let Gilbert try and get an open look at the rim. This time it paid off.

“I’ve been trusted two to three times to win the game so I can’t let them down again,” Gilbert said.